Friday, May 4, 2012

Bloomberg's Folly

In all of our commentary surrounding the big victory of the Forces of Light at Willets Point we have been remiss in not mentioning the extent to which the entire project underscores Mike Bloomberg's lack of managerial acumen-not to mention his grandiosity that informs it. The Observer's story on the city's stunning about face is right to the point:
"Another reason the initial plan was abandoned was that all the developers interested in the project—other contenders were Silverstein Properties, TDC, and Avalon Bay—were unsure of the ability to execute even such a modest proposal for one of the most complex sites in the city. Part of the reason Willets Point became the Iron Triangle is the land is essentially a bog, lying a good six feet below the rest of the area. It would require significant excavation and landfill to bring it up to grade. Further complicating matters, centuries of industrial activity—remember the valley of ashes?—has left the ground heavily polluted. Any development would require significant remediation of the site before it could move forward."

So Bloomberg wasted the past four years-and spent millions-pursuing his "sustainable green new neighborhood," only to discover that the entire project is a costly white elephant. Great job, Mr. Mayor! In the process he has put small property owners through the ringer trying to defend themselves against eminent domain taking of their land.

And make no mistake a bout it, the city withdrew because it was facing an embarrassing legal defeat that would have exposed all of its extra-legal shenanigans employed in the Willets Point land grab. The Observer says it all:

"Another factor beyond the toxicity of the site is, or rather was, the pending eminent domain case, which was to have been heard on Monday. “There were a lot of things going against the city here, and in view of all that, I think someone made the executive decision that this was going against the city and would set a bad precedent for all future takings,” Michael Rikon told The Observer.

Mr. Rikon, an attorney for Willets Point United, a landowner group fighting the city, said that the city faced a tough case because of issues ranging from a failure to have translators at the eminent domain hearing (many property owners are Latino) to not providing notice in person and having no clear public use yet assigned (there was not yet a developer in place at the time of the hearing). “It’s strange, too, because rarely do you win these kinds of cases,” Mr. Rikon said of eminent domain defendants, “but I really thing this could have been different.”

Who says you can't fight City Hall? But kudos to the intrepidness of folks who didn't feel that the city had the right to take their land and hand it over to a rich friend of the mayor's-like Steve Ross of Related.